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"20 to Watch" Quarterly Review - Part 1

We are almost three months into the new season, so it only seems logical to check up on how our ’20 to Watch’ players have started their year.

Anett Kontaveit

Initial World Ranking: 439
Current World Ranking: 368 (↑71)
2013 Record: 5-3
2013 Titles: 0

The season started well for the Estonian, coming through qualifying to reach the semi-final of the $25k in Burnie, Australia. Comfortable victories over three top-400 players proved that she should rise up the rankings rapidly and she battled hard against the 30-year old Australian, Monique Adamczak, in the semi-final, losing 6-4 in the third set.

This was all in preparation for her attempts to win her maiden Junior Grand Slam title. Seeded tenth, she did not drop a set on her way to the semi-final with victories over Harriet Dart, Natalia Vajdova, seventh seed, Anna Danilina and fourth seed, Antonia Lottner. However, this was as far as she would go, losing to second seed, Katerina Siniakova.

A final tournament in Australia saw Kontaveit lose in straight sets to Azra Hadzic, although a comedown the week after her run at the Australian Open was not entirely unexpected, especially in a player so young.

She would then take a month and a half off to work on her game before returning at the Premier event in Miami, where she had been awarded a wildcard. Despite winning just three games against the talented American, Christina McHale, the match in the prestigious night session in front of a packed house would have been a big learning experience for her, and hopefully she will find herself playing in big matches on a regular basis.


Donna Vekic

Initial World Ranking: 109
Current World Ranking: 95 (↑14)
2013 Record: 4-3
2013 Titles: 0

Vekic began the season as the youngest automatic entry into the Australian Open draw and emphasised her talent, dropping just three games in her first round win against Andrea Hlavackova to set up a glamour second round encounter with former world number one, Caroline Wozniacki. Despite losing 6-1, 6-4, Vekic won plenty of fans. She struggled with her first serve, although she hit some beautiful winners, particularly off the forehand wing.

She had three solid wins in the Fed Cup, although was beaten by Agnieszka Radwanska, as Croatia lost to Poland in the final stage, but then had a disappointing first round exit in Kuala Lumpur against Bethanie Mattek-Sands in a close encounter.

Vekic came through qualifying for the Premier event in Miami, beating Marta Sirotkina and Valeria Savinykh, before comfortably beating Yulia Putintseva in the first round. However, she struggled against the higher quality, Elena Vesnina, in the second round.

It has been a difficult first season on the full-tour level for Vekic so far. It will be interesting to see how she performs in the clay court swing, given her inexperience on the surface in her career thus far.


Carina Witthoeft

Initial World Ranking: 223
Current World Ranking: 220 (↑3)
2013 Record: 6-2
2013 Titles: 0

Witthoeft’s season did not begin properly until this month, having taken time off to work on various aspects of her game. Her first tournament of the year was a $10k ITF tournament in Sutton. Seeded second, she showed early signs of rust, labouring to a three set victory over the French teenager, Oceane Adam, but then had two solid straight sets victories over Anna Smith and Angelica Moratelli, before her semi-final opponent retired just one game into the match. Sadly, she was unable to win her first title of the year as she lost in three tight sets to the talented Liechtensteiner, Stephanie Vogt.

Tournament number two would come the following week as she was the third seed at the $15k event in Bath. A good win over the Australian Open junior champion, Ana Konjuh, for the loss of just three games was a solid start, and a three set win against Viktorija Golubic saw her into the quarter-final. However, a straight sets defeat to Tereza Smitkova saw her tournament end there.

A solid start to the season thus far and it would be a surprise if she does not pick up an ITF title soon. Once that comes, she should start looking at stepping up to the $25k or $50k events and a higher quality of opponent.


Eugenie Bouchard

Initial World Ranking: 144
Current World Ranking: 123 (↑21)
2013 Record: 8-8
2013 Titles: 0

After a promising end to 2012, it has been a difficult start to the year for the Wimbledon junior champion. A defeat in tough conditions to Elena Vesnina in Auckland was certainly nothing to be ashamed about, but a straight sets defeat to Storm Sanders in qualifying for Sydney, followed by a defeat against Daria Gavrilova in qualifying for the Australian Open meant that it was a disappointing month down under for the Canadian.

The Fed Cup provided a change of scenery and four wins out of four on the clay in Colombia restored some confidence, with victories over Mariana Duque-Marino and Teliana Pereira particularly pleasing. A second round defeat followed in the Cali challenger, before another disappointing failure to qualify in Bogota, although losing to Parra Santonja is excusable.

She finally qualified for the first time in Acapulco, before beating Eva Birnerova in the first round for her first main draw win of the year. She can also be proud of her performance against eventual champion, Sara Errani, losing 7-6, 6-2 in a solid match.

Transitioning back to the hard courts, she lost in the first round of qualifying for Indian Wells against Elina Svitolina, but Miami proved more successful as she beat Shahar Peer in the first round to set up a glamour tie against Maria Sharapova. While she only won two, it was a valuable learning experience.

It has been a fairly disappointing year so far for Bouchard, although she has seemed to enjoy the clay courts so far, so the clay court swing might bring around a change in fortunes for the Canadian.


Monica Puig

Initial World Ranking: 134
Current World Ranking: 102 (↑32)
2013 Record: 11-7
2013 Titles: 0

It was as though the season had never ended for Puig as she continued her excellent run of form from the end of last year. She qualified for the main draw in Brisbane with good wins over Vera Dushevina and Bethanie Mattek-Sands, before beating local player, Olivia Rogowska, in the first round. However, it was her performance against Angelique Kerber that really stole the show, pushing the world number five to three sets, losing 9-7 in the third set tiebreak. If only she had not missed an easy volley to take a 5-2 lead in the tiebreak, a huge upset might have become a reality.

Sadly, she threw in a poor performance in qualifying for the Australian Open, losing to Qiang Wang in three sets. Two wins in qualifying in Paris were not quite enough as she succumbed to Stefanie Voegele in the final round, before she dropped back to the ITF circuit to get a few wins under her belt. A good run in the $100k event in Midland saw her beat Alexandra Stevenson, Sachia Vickery and Jessica Pegula, before losing to another talented young American, Lauren Davis, in the semi-final.

She qualified for the Premier event in Indian Wells, including a very impressive straight sets victory over Andrea Petkovic, before losing in three to Alize Cornet in the first round. Automatic entry into the main draw in Miami was the result of good results thus far, although she struggled against Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the first round.

The match against Kerber has been the highlight and shows Puig what she can do if she plays well. She should qualify for plenty more WTA events this season, and combined with the odd ITF event here and there, it should boost her ranking nicely.


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